Albert Einstein
Posted: 18 March 2011 in Scientists
Albert Einstein

Einstein’s parents, Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch, were married in his mother’s home town of Cannstatt, in Germany, on 8 August 1876. They then moved to Ulm, his father’s home town, where Hermann set up a business in partnership with his cousin. Pauline gave birth to Albert on 14 March 1879. and to his sister, Maria, on 18 November 1881. In between times the family had moved to Munich. Although his parents were non observant Jews, in 1885 Einstein began his schooling at a Catholic elementary school. Three years later he moved to the Luitpold Gymnasium, to continue his childhood education, until he left in 1894.

His father’s business was failing, and, in consequence, early in 1894 he moved the rest of his family to Milan in Italy, hoping business might be better there. But business continued to be poor, and the company finally failed in 1896. After starting another business, which also failed, Hermann returned to Germany in 1902, and died of heart failure later that year. (more…)

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Admiral Lord Nelson
Posted: 16 March 2011 in Military Leaders
Tags: american war of independence, battle of trafalgar, horatio nelson, north west passage, royal navy
Horatio Nelson

Admiral Lord Nelson

Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758, at Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk. His father, Rev Edmund Nelson, was the local rector of All Saints’ Church. His mother, Catherine Suckling, was related to Sir Robert Walpole, the man generally credited with being Britain’s first prime minister. Nelson entered the navy in 1771, through the good offices of his maternal uncle and naval officer, Maurice Suckling.

After being educated at the Royal Grammar School in Norfolk, and then at Paston School in North Walsham, Nelson joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman at the age of twelve. He was given his first posting aboard HMS Raisonable, which his uncle commanded. At the time it was expected that Britain would soon be at war with Spain, but when the war failed to materialise Maurice Suckling was transferred to command another ship. So as to gain some experience at sea, his uncle arranged for Nelson to serve on board a merchantman, which was about to undertake a fourteen month voyage to the West Indies. (more…)

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The Bronte Sisters
Posted: 1 November 2010 in Poets & Novelists
Tags: brontes, haworth, novelist
Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte

Patrick Bronte was an Anglican clergyman who, in 1812, met Maria Branwell whilst living at Guiseley in West Yorkshire. Patrick and Maria married later that same year, and had six children between 1814 and 1820. The first, Maria Bronte, was born in 1814, followed by Elizabeth (1815), Charlotte (1816), Patrick (1817), Emily (1818) and Anne (1820). After the birth of Anne, the family moved to Haworth in West Yorkshire, where Patrick Bronte was to become perpetual curate of St Michael and All Angels, and where the Bronte Sisters were to grow up. Shortly after the move, on 15 September 1821, Patrick Bronte’s wife died, and her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved to Haworth to help care for the children.

In 1824 the four eldest sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughter’s school in Lancashire, but the poor conditions there led to Maria dying of typhus the following year. Elizabeth, Emile and Charlotte were quickly brought home, (more…)

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Sir Isaac Newton
Posted: 28 October 2010 in Scientists
Tags: astronomy, cambridge, gravitation, heliocentric, physicist
Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642. His father, who had been a fairly wealthy farmer, had died three months previously. His mother remarried when he was two years old, and left him in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough. Newton resented being abandoned by his mother, and threatened to burn down the house of his mother and her new husband; a threat he was later to recount as one of his childhood sins (he was a deeply religious man).

When he was twelve Newton was sent to school in nearby Grantham, and showed no particular promise as a student. Following the death of her second husband, his mother withdrew him from school, with the idea that she would make a farmer out of Newton, and that he would continue in the the family line of business. But it transpired that, if there was one thing the young Newton was not, it was a farmer, and following the intercession of either the headmaster of Grantham grammar school, or of an uncle (depending upon who you believe) he was allowed to return to school. (more…)

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John Calvin
Posted: 26 October 2010 in Religious Personalities
Tags: calvinism, protestantism, reformation
John Calvin

John Calvin

John Calvin (Jean Cauvin) was born on 15 July 1509 at Noyon in Picardy, France; the son of Gérard Cauvin and his wife Jeanne le Franc. Calvin’s father intended that he should train for the priesthood, and by the age of twelve the precocious Calvin was already working as clerk to the local bishop. He subsequently came to the notice of a wealthy and influential family, and through their patronage he was enabled to receive an education in philosophy at the University of Paris. There is not much agreement about the exact date, but sometime between 1525 and 1528 Calvin’s father withdrew him from the University of Paris, and sent him first to the  University of Orléans, and then to the University of Bourges, to study law. The motive for this decision was apparently the greater monetary rewards to be had from practising law. During his time in Bourges Calvin underwent a sudden religious conversion. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding this conversion, but it was to determine the future course of Calvin’s life. (more…)

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Julius Caesar
Posted: 20 October 2010 in Military Leaders, Politicians
Tags: caesar, roman empire
Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born on 13 July 100BC. His father’s name was also Gaius Julius Caesar, and his mother was Aurelia Cotta, whose family had some influence in Roman society.

Caesar’s father died in 85BC, making the 15 year old Caesar head of his family. The following year he married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, who was one of the two roman consuls in 84BC. The consul’s were elected annually, and were jointly the head of state. This arrangement changed  after the end of the Roman Republic, and the birth of the Roman Empire.

Early in 81BC, the roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla returned to Rome, after bringing Pontus and Armenia Minor under roman control, and was appointed dictator by the Senate. (A dictator in ancient Rome was somebody with the same absolute power of a modern dictator, but who was appointed for a fixed term by the Roman Senate.) He then proceeded to purge Rome of his enemies, one of whom was Cinna; the latter having previously crossed swords with Sulla. As Cinna’s brother in law, Caesar too would have become a victim of Sulla’s purges, and was forced into hiding. He was saved through the good offices of his mother’s influential family, some of whom were friends of Sulla, and some of whom were amongst the vestal virgins, who wielded considerable influence in the Rome of the time. (more…)

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